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Violin Care

Violin tuning

Even if your violin has adjusters fitted to the tailpiece you will need to tune with the pegs from time to time. tailpiece adjusters are for fine adjustment and should be slackened off every so often ( before they are wound down so far that they touch the front of the violin under the tailpiece!) The wooden pegs are tapered and therefore to tune using a peg requires a turning action combined with a gentle but firm sideways pressure to keep the taper snugly seated otherwise it will slip! Unless you are tensioning new strings a small amount of turning is all that is needed.

Violin peg maintenance

Tight pegs
If you find your pegs becoming stiff with a jerky movement so that you end up tuning above or below the note but never quite seem to be able to find the right spot it is time for some lubrication (and I don't mean a glass of red wine!) Let the string down gently and remove the peg. Take a small piece of hard dry soap (the sort of piece you would normally throw away is ideal) and put a small smear on the two places where it passes through the peg box, don't over do it ! Then turn it a few times in it's hole before replacing the string, if you have been frugal with the soap it will have corrected the problem, if you over did the soaping, well ... move on to the next section. 

Slipping pegs
Remove the peg as described above and apply some ordinary chalk (blackboard chalk) to the parts of the peg that seat in the peg box, they usually show up as shiny bands around the peg. You will need to be more generous with chalk than soap, better than chalk is artists pastel, it is not quite so harsh and has the added advantage of being able to find a good colour match. Sometimes pegs will require both treatments.

Changing violin strings

If you are replacing the whole set, just change one string at a time this is much better for the violin as it avoids drastic alterations in tension. If you have tailpiece adjusters fitted be careful how you fit the string through the adjuster, it is easy to damage the string or the winding, there is not much room to spare. Please see our strings information page for more comprehensive fitting instructions together with lots of information on many of the different types available.

The violin bridge

The bridge is the most important fitting on the exterior of the violin and on its shape, height, position and angle depends to a great extent the sound of your violin. It is not fixed in position but is only held in place by the tension of the strings passing over its top edge. A violin maker or restorer aims to make a bridge which will transmit the most vibration energy from the strings to the body. This vibration is transmitted through the bridge and sound post to the body of the violin (mainly the top and back), which allows the sound to effectively radiate into the air. The body of the violin acts as a "sound box" to amplify the sound of the vibrating strings and make them audible. (In reality, there is no "amplification": the vibrating top and back plates of the body simply increase the loudness of the sound since they have a larger surface area.

When you purchase your violin the bridge should be in the correct position however if you need to place it, align the feet of the bridge between the two small nicks on the inside of the two "F" holes, Important! Every time you tune using the pegs the top of the bridge moves a small amount towards the pegs, it is a small amount and so not usually noticed, however if this movement is left unchecked it will eventually lead to a warped or broken bridge or worst of all the bridge will suddenly collapse forward with considerable force causing possible damage to the violin. 
The correct angle is set by looking from the side, the bridge should make a right angle (90 degrees) between the back of the bridge and the flat part of the belly behind the bridge. (see diagram) 
French Violin
 
 French Violin
Correcting the bridge angle If the bridge angle needs correcting you will need to lay the violin down on its back on a cloth or alternatively you can leave it in its case for support. Rest your hands just above the widest part of the violin and grip the bridge between thumb and index finger or thumb and middle finger 
(see diagram). Then ease the top part of the bridge back towards the tailpiece until the correct angle is obtained. You will find quite a lot of pressure is required to move the bridge but it must be done in a controlled way so that the bridge moves as a whole without altering the placement of the feet. 

Violin tailgut

The modern replacement for tailgut is made of nylon, if you have an original tailgut fitted and it is either frayed or stretched you should have it replaced with a new nylon one. They are very easy to fit , the modern replacements have small threaded endpieces that just require tightening. The length should be such that the very end of the tailpiece is just in line with the highest point of the saddle, (this is the piece of ebony or rosewood where the tailgut passes over the end of the violin). You will find it stretches a small amount after fitting.

Violin Chinrest

The chinrest is a modern useful addition to the violin, it doesn't require any maintenance but it is worth noting its position on the body of the instrument. A lot of chin rests are fitted close to or even straddling the tailpiece. Check to make sure it is not actually touching the tailpiece at any point as this can cause buzzes or even a reduction in resonance or tone in some cases. Finally be sure not to over tighten the chinrest as this can cause rib distortion.